Pakistan Jul 2005: Concordia
Trek Day 7 and 8 - Concordia (4700m).

In the heart of the Karakorams of northern Pakistan lies an amphitheatre of high mountains which truly has no parallel. The American climber and photographer Galen Rowell described it as the ‘Throne Room of the Mountain Gods’. When you stand at the glacial junction known as Concordia and survey the phenomenal array of summits which includes four of the world’s 12 mountain peaks more than 8000 metres high, it is difficult to disagree with him. The four mountains are: K-2 (8611m), Gasherbrum-I (8086m), Broad Peak (8047m) and Gasherbrum-II (8035m).

For orientation, imagine Concordia as a 'T' junction of glaciers. The bottom of the 'T' represents the snout of the 60km long Baltoro Glacier. As you make your way up to the junction, Gasherbrum-IV ((7925m), resembling an inverted 'V', lies directly in front of you. At the left and right corners of the junction are Marbal Peak (6256m) and Mitre Peak (6010m) respectively. On the right of the junction is the Vigne Glacier and you can see the Golden Throne (7312m) and Chogolisa (7653m) lie on its either side like guardians to a throne room. On the left of the junction is Godwin-Austin Glacier. At the head of Godwin-Austin Glacier is the majestic pyramid of K-2. At 8611m, K-2 is the second highest mountain in the world. Chagori, the Balti name of K-2, means the King of Mountains. I would say that K-2 has a fitting local name and a worthy setting.

K-2 is located on the border between China and Pakistan. The first westerner who saw the peak was probably Lieutenant T.G. Montgomerie. In 1856, he was surveying the mountains in the area and spotted the extraordinary peaks of Karakoram, which he gave temporary names: K for Karakoram plus a number for each peak, e.g. K-1, K-2, K-3, etc.

Dubbed the "Savage Mountain", K-2 is arguably the hardest climb in the world. The routes to the summit are steeper and more difficult than those to the top of Everest. The weather is also significantly colder and less predictable. Thus, reaching the top of K-2 is the equivalent of winning the Olympic gold in mountaineering. In terms of the number of accidents that had happened on the descent, it is the most deadly mountain in the world. The greatest loss of lives occurred in the K-2 Tragedy of 1986 when 13 climbers from several expeditions died in a severe storm. Legend says that K-2 carries a curse on women. The first woman to reach the summit was Wanda Rutkiewicz in 1986. The next five women to reach the summit are all dead; three of them died on the way down. Rutkiewicz herself died on a different climb in 1992.

In spite of the dangers, the mountain continues to lure climbers to its slopes of dark gray rock. It is the ultimate fear and as such must be faced and overcome by climbers aiming for alpine excellence. In scaling Everest, you are a great climber to the world; to summit K-2, and you are a true climber to the climbers. K-2 is the jealous king to Sagarmatha (Mother Goddess), the Nepalese name for Everest. It is an unforgiving, handsome and mighty mountain. It is said that if the King's crown is what you come for, be prepared to risk it all.
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